When Sarah Reinhart and her 6-year-old son, Lucas, checked out a library book called “Water in the Park,” neither could have foreseen it would jump-start an interest in civic engagement.
But that book, which piqued Lucas’ interest in getting a splash pad for San Luis Obispo, ultimately led to a Change.org petition and a meeting with Mayor Heidi Harmon. (A splash pad is an outdoor water play area, often complete with spouts that shoot water up from the ground.)
After Sarah and Lucas read “Water in the Park,” Lucas kept asking questions about splash pads in other cities they visited, including in Portland and at Heilmann Regional Park in Atascadero. Lucas ultimately asked how he could get a splash pad in San Luis Obispo. His mom told him he could write a letter to the mayor.
“He does not like writing, he’s in kindergarten,” Reinhart said. “He said, ‘How about a video, can we do a video?’ I said, ‘OK, sure.’ ”
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Reinhart posted a video of Lucas asking the mayor for a splash pad on Facebook, privately, expecting to share it with her friends. Then it grew.
Harmon commented on the video and invited Lucas to meet with her.
Then, back in mid-April, Lucas, Lucas’ little sister, Ruby, and Lucas’s friend Kavi met Harmon in her office, where the mayor explained how local government works and shared her concerns about water usage during the drought. Harmon also gave the children a tour of the council chambers and explained how to make a public comment at a council meeting.
“He could not wait to talk to her,” Reinhart said.
“I kept telling him, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ And he said, ‘I can be brave, Mom.’ ”